It was 5.45am, starting to rain and the morning sun was still lurking out of sight, but already there was a line of Dockers fans inside Fremantle Oval.
They had arrived in the clubrooms for a breakfast put on by radio station 92.9, ahead of the team's final open training session.
Among those gathered in the gloom were Ron Doherty, of East Fremantle, and his daughter-in-law Marie.
The long-term fans said that to have their side in the grand final was sweet revenge for all those years of pain when the Dockers were whipping boys and taunts like "The Dorkers" were directed their way.
Before long Keryn Mort, of Currambine, who had the morning off work, and her son Bailey, 12, arrived brandishing a team poster from The West Australian which they had laminated.
A familiar theme emerged as they excitedly discussed why they supported the boys in purple: their passion.
Over in the old wooden stand, Jurance Girgirba, of Byford, and Sylvia Wilson, of Baldivis, took a seat.
They had woken at 5am to make sure they caught as much of the atmosphere as possible and were upbeat about the team's chances on Saturday.
"I am pretty confident in my boys," Miss Girgirba said. "But it's going to be close."
As 7am came and went the players began to drive through the gate and preparations ramped up on both sides of the boundary fence.
A groundsman marked the oval, ice-cream vans were readied and a kids' train, the Bubble Bean Express, was decorated with scarfs.
Near the players' rooms, Tania Coleman, of Armadale, waited with her daughters Tanisha, 14, Jayde, 11, and son Zak, 5.
Tanisha said she loved the underdog tag the Dockers had regularly carried, but couldn't pick just one favourite player.
"I like the whole team," she said.
Jayde chose Hayden Ballantyne.
"He doesn't let people mess with him," she said.
At 8am the team store opened and already there was a line at the door.
Inside, Karla Dawson, of Fremantle, and Jaye Small, of South Fremantle, decked out in Dockers gear with anchor earrings and necklaces, were shopping for Dockers pyjamas to wear to the MCG on Saturday.
Ms Small said the supporters' passion was linked to having the team as part of the local community.
"You see them in the street and can say, 'How are you going?' That's a really important thing," she said.
She was optimistic about a victory over Hawthorn. "We have never lost a grand final," Ms Small said.
And there was something else at work too, the women said.
A group of Tibetan monks who recently visited town had been chanting for the Dockers.
Local rockers and Freo fans Eskimo Joe fired up the guitars for a couple of tunes and as the crowd built, the merchandise caravan nearby did a roaring trade, selling all the special grand final T-shirts except double XL within about 10 minutes.
Phillip Carrello, 83, of Munster, who said he had been visiting the ground since there was just one stand, sat on a bench in his usual place and greeted other regulars.
"We live here," Mr Carrello said. "It's an awesome club.
"They make us welcome and we get to talk to the guys regularly."
As 9.30 approached, the fans were gathered many deep along the grandstand wing and also took up position around the terraces, numbering upwards of 5000 in total.
Kids rode on dads' shoulders and cradled footies, the speakers belted out the AC/DC anthem TNT and the happy fans turned the chorus of "T-N-T" into "Free-man-tle".
A brief shower of rain sent some scampering for shelter, but about 9.50, skipper Matthew Pavlich led the team on to the ground, the sun broke through and the "Freeeoooo" chant went up.
Then it was all eyes on the players, to dissect who was out there and who was missing - and why.
Kaye Eggleston, of Palmyra, said coach Ross Lyon was trying to keep a lid on the hype so the players, especially "the young ones", did not get overawed.
"But we can't hold back any longer," she said.
About 10.40 the boys finished with a lap of the ground and headed back into the rooms.
There was no exuberance, no celebration, no high fives with the fans. Just a group of determined-looking blokes going about their business.
That Ross Lyon again!
Up on the hill, Mr Carrello was not making any hasty calls on what he had seen, even though a few important names had not made it on to the track.
"Training on Thursday is the day," he said.
As the crowd thinned, the queue outside the team merchandise store still stretched 30m or so.
Waiting patiently in line was Maria Alberti.
She was in the hunt for a Dockers flag. "A big one. I want to put a flag at the front door," she said.
In a tent nearby the face painters applied a few more flourishes and over at the far end of the ground the Bubble Bean Express carried kids around for a final lap.
And an inescapable sentiment hung in the port city's air: the Dockers express was ready for Melbourne.